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RI ACLU Says Latest Statistics Show New Civil Union Law Is “Still a Fiasco”

Posted: November 23, 2011|Category: Discrimination Category: LGBT Rights

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Following up on a detailed report it issued two months ago, the Rhode Island ACLU said today that the latest statistics show that Rhode Island’s civil union law, enacted over the strong protests of the community it was designed to benefit, remains “a fiasco” that highlights the need for passage of true marriage equality legislation.  The newest statistics show that in the first four months since the law took effect, only thirty-nine gay and lesbian couples have taken advantage of the statute to obtain “civil union” status.

Although the twenty-five couples obtaining civil union status in September and October were an increase from the fourteen that took advantage of the law during the first two months of its enactment, the figures remain “ridiculously low,” said RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown.  In September, the RI ACLU issued a report examining the twelve other states that in recent years have enacted marriage, civil union or domestic partnership legislation for gay and lesbian couples.  The report noted that the initial rate of license issuances in those states, adjusting for population, often exceeded Rhode Island’s rate by a factor of tenfold or more.

Brown said that the latest figures, obtained by the ACLU from the RI Department of Health, only confirm that the law is “still a fiasco.”  In Illinois, for example, the only other state this year to also implement a civil union law, over 1,600 licenses were issued in the first month alone.  Taking into account the population difference between the two states, the disparity is still more than tenfold, and one that mirrors the data from other states, the report showed.

The ACLU report had cited a number of reasons why the new statute was being shunned by couples, including the presence of an extremely broad “religious” exemption that significantly undercuts the law’s purpose.  Brown said today: “The incredibly underwhelming response to civil unions after four months demonstrates how poorly conceived this legislative ‘compromise’ was.  The statistics lead to only one conclusion: Rhode Island needs to join its New England neighbors and provide true marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples.”

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